Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans take versatility to new heights with customizable interiors, 4WD and an affordable new mid-sized Metris.
And who would have figured this van could have so many possibilities, or work for so many different types of drivers? But the Sprinter is just that: Perfect for outfitting as a work van (think mobile cupcake shop, blow-out bar on wheels or delivery truck), a van for vacationing (with a four wheel drive option and a size that can accommodate beds and a bathroom) or in the case of the mid-sized Metris, a family van that seats up to 8.
I got to see all this and more when I was among a group of journalists invited to Mercedes-Benz Van Camp at Dunton Hot Springs, a 5-star ranch at 8600 feet in the mountains of southwest Colorado. The resort, a mining camp in the late 1800’s, went through several iterations, including being abandoned and reborn as a dude ranch that closed in 1990. At its peak, the town had 260 to 300 people living as residents.
In 1994, a family bought Dunton and set about renovating the entire town, which took seven years. Today, the town can be rented for up to 44 people. And that’s just what Mercedes-Benz did. We stayed in hand-hewn log cabins decorated with antiques, brass bathtubs, and lambskin rugs. Dunton Hot Springs is open all year-round and the price of admission to this glam camp gives you deluxe accommodations, a spa, screening room, hot springs, all manner of activities and all meals. The farm to table food includes fruit and vegetable from Dunton’s gardens, local lamb and wine from their winery.
We were there to test the new mid-sized Sprinter van, the Metris. We also were able to drive a variety of Sprinter vans including R/Vs, the new 4×4, and the super single (single-wheel heavy duty alternative to the 3,500 dually, or double-wheel per axle, version).
Our drive took us from the Durango airport on highways and gravel roads to Dunton and up winding, narrow, mountain passes to Telluride at 8,750 feet. We switched out everything from cargo vans to the Metris to Sprinter R/Vs to test out their comfort level. Seriously, it was not the place I wanted to try out a BIG vehicle but, true to their word, the Sprinters held strong- sturdy and easy to maneuver.
“The U.S. is finally coming around to Eurostyle vans,” noted Bernie Glaser, Vice President and Managing Director of Daimler Vans USA, LLC. Eurostyle vans with their unibody construction (versus body on frame), translates to a narrower, taller, design than traditional vans. The overall plus is that this configuration maximizes cargo area.
“The van division for Mercedes-Benz is a $1 billion dollar revenue company. Business is up 19.6% since May; we are outperforming the large van market. The U.S. is our second major market behind Germany,” remarked Glaser.
To accommodate that need, Mercedes-Benz established a separate Vans division in the U.S. for its commercial customers. Sprinter sales are growing so much that the company just invested $500 million in a new plant in Charleston, South Carolina, to produce the second generation of Sprinters. With 276 Sprinter dealers in the U.S., Mercedes-Benz is planning to grow that market with their newest mid-sized van, the Metris.
The new slogan for Mercedes-Benz Vans division (Sprinter and Metris) –“Vans. Born to Run” – speaks volumes about where the company is going.
Bottom line, the Sprinter can be morphed into anything from a food truck to a luxury motor home, executive coach, dump truck or refrigerated van.
The Sprinter also has off-road bragging rights with 4 x 4 four-wheel-drive versions that are new to the U.S. The 4 x 4 took 1st place in the crossover division for the 2015 Rallye des Gazelles in the Sahara Desert. The Rallye is one of the toughest all-female sporting events in the world.
The 4 x 4 option is new to the full-sized van market. To wit, Sportsmobile West out of Fresno, California, started in 1961 with VW Camper van conversions, has started outfitting the 4 x 4 Sprinter for the Overlanding and Adventure RV traveler.
Besides the 4 x 4 variant coming to the fleet, the midsize Metris is coming to the U.S. this fall. (The Metris already had a starring role in Jurassic World.)
Mercedes-Benz Vans U.S.A.
The van seats up to eight with “garage-ability,” meaning it will fit in most garages, making the Metris is good news for small businesses or large families. Mercedes-Benz predicts that Metris sales in the U.S. will be 50% passenger and 50% cargo.
With a starting price of $28,950, the Metris has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The vehicle comes with rear-wheel drive; four-wheel drive is a future possibility.
A recent report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) cited that 97,775 vans were registered in the first three months of 2015, up 22.3% from a year earlier. The rise in vans was credited to a jolt of online buying. In May, 2015, an article in WardsAuto by Tom Beaman stated that sales in the small commercial van market are up 58% from 2014. Mercedes-Benz is introducing the Metris at a crucial time.